New Accommodations for Diversity

A Planning Guide for Accessible Restrooms
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Sponsored by Bobrick Washroom Equipment
By Amada Voss, MPP
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Roll toilet tissue dispensers that allow continuous paper flow are required in all accessible toilet compartments. Dispensers that control continuous paper delivery should not be used. The 2010 ADA Standards require roll toilet tissue dispensers to be installed with dispenser centerline 7 inches minimum to 9 inches maximum in front of the leading edge of the toilet. The ICC A117.1-2017 Standards establish a different measurement procedure, locating the toilet tissue dispenser outlet between 24 inches minimum and 42 inches maximum from the rear wall of the toilet compartment.

Sanitary napkin disposals are recommended in all women’s toilet compartments for feminine hygiene waste. They should be within reach from a sitting position, and it is recommended they be mounted below grab bars. Toilet seat cover dispensers are an optional hygienic amenity that can easily be provided in all toilet compartments. The opening for toilet seat covers needs to be mounted between 15 inches and 48 inches above the floor, in an accessible location in relation to the leading edge of the toilet, per the 2010 ADA Standards, or from the rear wall per the ICC A117.1-2017 Standards. Recessed combination units installed on side walls or partitions with grab bars can organize and unify installations by incorporating several accessories at one convenient location, such as toilet tissue dispensers, toilet-seat-cover dispensers, and sanitary napkin disposals, improving accessibility. If compliance with the 2010 ADA Standard is a concern – for example, in the state of California─specify and install separate recessed or surface-mounted dispenser and disposal accessories a minimum of 1-1/2 inches below the horizontal grab bar.

Urinals, where provided, should include at least one wall-hung urinal installed with the rim 17 inches maximum above the finish floor. Urinals must be a minimum of 13-1/2 inches deep. The operable portion of the flush valve must be mounted no higher than 48 inches maximum above the floor, or no higher than 44 inches, if the urinal extends far enough to create at least 20 inches of reach. A minimum clear floor space of 30 inches wide by 48 inches deep, per 2010 ADA and ICC A117.1-2017 for existing buildings, must be provided to allow forward approach. To comply with ICC A117.1-2017 for new buildings a minimum clear floor space of 30 inches wide by 52 inches deep is required for forward approach.

Accessible bathing facilities for people with disabilities are required in a wide variety of buildings including hotels, athletic clubs, school gymnasiums and dormitories, parks and campgrounds, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. Accessible bathing facilities fall into two basic categories: individual shower compartments or combination tub and shower units.

Transfer shower compartments are the most common type of individual shower compartment used to accommodate people with disabilities. They must be 36 inches by 36 inches absolute inside dimensions, with a fixed or folding L-shaped shower seat mounted on a side wall opposite the shower head and controls. The 36 inches by 36 inches inside dimension addresses the reach and safety needs of adult users. Curbs may be installed, but they must be no higher than ½-inch.

In the 2010 ADA Standards and the ICC A117-.1-2017 Standards for existing buildings, the minimum clear floor space of 36 inches by 48 inches must be positioned starting outside the shower compartment, to allow proper wheelchair positioning for transfer to and from the shower seat. In the ICC A117.1-2017 for new buildings, a 36 inch by 52-inch minimum clear floor space is required adjacent to the open face of the transfer shower compartment.

Hand-held showers on a hose that can be used as both a fixed shower head and hand-held shower head are required in accessible showers. The hose must measure a minimum of 59 inches long. Use of an adjustable vertical slide bar for the hand-held unit is optional.

Roll-in shower compartments, also known as “Curbless Showers,” are functional for all users including people who use a castered shower chair for bathing. Roll-in shower compartments are required to be at least 30 inches deep by 60 inches wide. This measurement is derived from remodeling requirements and allows for the replacement of an existing tub with a roll-in shower compartment. Additionally, the ADA and ICC A117.1-2017 standards require that a minimum clearance of 30 inches wide by 60 inches long shall be provided adjacent to the open face of the standard roll-in shower compartment. This space may incorporate knee clearance under adjacent lavatories or countertops. Note that the California Building Code requires a minimum clearance of 36 inches wide by 60 inches long adjacent to the open face of the roll-in shower compartment. However, shower compartments set at the minimum size of 30 inches deep by 60 inches wide are often inadequate for containing water. For practicality, consider larger sizes to ease maneuvering and decrease water spillage, such as 36 inches by 60 inches, 48 inches by 60 inches and 60 inches by 60 inches. Curbs should be avoided or minimized. If it is necessary to include them, then curbs should be ½-inch high at a maximum.

Grab bars must be installed in all accessible bathing facilities. Horizontal grab bars in showers must be mounted 33 inches to 36 inches to the top of the gripping surface above the finish floor. Two horizontal grab bars or a single two-wall horizontal grab bar must be installed on the walls next to and opposite the folding shower seat in transfer shower compartments. Standard roll-in shower compartments must have grab bars installed 6 inches maximum from the corners. ICC A117.1-2017 Standards require that transfer and roll-in shower compartments must also have a vertical grab bar, 18 inches long minimum, mounted on the control wall, and 4 inches maximum from the front edge.

Combination Tub and Shower Units must have a horizontal grab bar mounted at the foot of the tub on the side wall that extends at least 24 inches from the front edge of the tub. They must also have two parallel horizontal grab bars, mounted on the back wall. The upper grab bar is mounted at standard height and the lower grab bar is mounted 8 inches to 10 inches above the tub rim. In tubs with a removable in-tub seat the back wall grab bar lengths are specified at 24 inches. Bathtubs with removable in-tub seats must have a fourth horizontal grab bar mounted at the head of the tub on the side wall that extends at least 12 inches from the front edge of the tub.

Permanent or folding shower seats are required by ICC A117.1-2017 Standards. Shower seats must be mounted with the top surface of the seat 17 inches to 19 inches above the finish floor. For both roll-in and transfer shower compartments, seats must have a 3-inch maximum space between the seat edge and compartment entry-opening, a larger permissible 2-½-inch maximum gap between the seat and seat wall and a 1-½- inch maximum space from side edge of seat to the adjacent wall. Previous standards required the seat to be full depth of a 36-inch by 36-inch compartment, which pushed the shower curtain beyond the entry of the compartment and allowed water to flow onto the floor outside the compartment. The new maximum 3-inch space allows the shower curtain to hang vertically, keeping water safely within the compartment. Roll-in type shower compartments with seats can now use a rectangular seat design or the previously required “L”-Shaped design. Upholstered, cushioned seats are preferred by many people with disabilities for their comfort, while water-resistant solid phenolic seats are vandal-resistant and more sanitary.

Shower accessory placement is also considered by the standards. Soap dishes should be placed on the same wall as the shower head and controls, where they are least likely to collect standing water. It is recommended that soap dishes be recessed and mounted 38 inches to 48 inches above the finish floor when installed in shower compartments. Alternately, they should be mounted between the grab bar and the rim of the bathtub.

Shower curtains work well as enclosures for all users, including people who use wheelchairs. If other types of shower enclosures are used, they should fold back completely out of the way so as not to obstruct transfer to shower seats or interfere with controls. They also must not incorporate a track along the floor or the rim of bathtubs.

Medicine cabinets installed in bathrooms must be mounted so the bottom edge of the reflective surface of the mirror is no higher than 40 inches above the finish floor. In the state of California, medicine cabinets must be located with a usable shelf no higher than 44 inches above the finish floor.


Prescriptive requirements set the design standards, reach ranges, space requirements, and layouts for both large, multi-compartment restrooms, individual toilet rooms, and private restrooms in commercial buildings. When designing restrooms, some of each type of accessible plumbing fixture, restroom accessories and toilet compartments and their installation location must meet accessibility requirements contained in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and the 2017 Edition of ICC A117.1, Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities Standard. Knowing and utilizing current code requirements grants the ability to confidently lay out and specify accessible restroom accessories and toilet compartments for commercial, educational, and institutional building restrooms.

Amanda Voss, MPP, is an author, editor, and policy analyst. Writing for multiple publications, she has also served as the managing editor for Energy Design Update


Bobrick Bobrick is a 100-plus-year-old global restroom accessory and toilet partition company headquartered in North Hollywood, California, with seven manufacturing divisions across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and business operations that extend into 85 markets worldwide. A leader in product innovation and manufacturing, Bobrick prides itself on being a company that delivers best-in-class products and service while fostering an environment of collaboration and continuous learning.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in October 2022